Since Tealet launched its tea cupping evaluation form, we have received over 40 full evaluations for teas produced by independent tea growers. This is a huge step in innovation in the way high-quality tea quality is determined on a global scale. Aggregating these evaluations and presenting them to potential buyers of these teas was tricky, as there was no understandable way to interpret the results of the evaluations.
We have recently developed the Tealet Flavor Star which visualizes not just the flavor profile but also the intensity (1-10 scale) of each flavor. In addition, each evaluation includes an overall rating of the tea using a 50-100 scale similar to what is seen in the wine world. Tea rating applications have been around for years, but has been lacking in cohesiveness of these rating systems with an internationally recognized standard.
We realized during the development of our evaluation form that we would need to quantify the various elements that make up a cupping evaluation so we could effectively aggregate and analyze. At the same time we learned that the most telling element of quality is the flavor of leaf and liquor. While developing the Cupping Standards that we adopted, Tony Gebely, of World of Tea, researched the flavors that are commonly used in the coffee and wine world through flavor wheels. The list of flavors is close to 200, so you can imagine how difficult it is to choose a flavor while tasting a tea; you need to have a highly trained palate to differentiate flavors such as cocoa and chocolate.
Jason Walker, of Walker Tea Reviews, observed that not only is identifying the flavor important but it is also important to note the intensity and duration of the flavor. Evaluators can indicate intensity on a 1-10 scale; we are currently developing a way to take duration into consideration.
Although it is extremely important to understand the flavor profile of a tea, it is equally important to understand the general liking of the tea. For this reason we have included an overall rating for each evaluation, ranging from unacceptable, way below average, below average, above average, way above average, and exceptional. Teas scoring on the more unacceptable range will rate in the 50’s, while teas of above average to exceptional quality, will be in the 90-100 range. While this overall rating is much more subjective, depending on the taste preference of each individual evaluator, it can give us an idea of characteristics in tea that help a tea score higher or lower.
Pairing the flavor profile with the overall score of the tea is where the real magic begins. We are employing algorithms that can compare various flavor notes and their contribution to the overall rating of the teas. We may find that teas that possess citrus and certain floral notes tend to score higher, or teas containing wet fur notes score lower. Also, because we have a global network of consumer tasters, we can play with demographics of the data. In the end, our goal is to make tea buyers more aware of the true quality of tea so they can make more informed and conscious purchase decisions.